No. 3: A solar-powered, piloted aircraft called the Solar Impulse was a technological tour-de-force at K 2010. A model of the full plane was on display at the Solvay stand and a model of the molded cockpit was shown by Bayer MaterialScience. Heading up the mechanical design of the plane is Peter Frei, a former Swiss fighter pilot who graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) in mechanical engineering. Most of the materials engineering to date has come from Solvay with a recent assist from Bayer MaterialScience.
Weight reduction with plastics is an obsession of the engineering team. One square meter in photovoltaics delivers enough electricity to put 2.2 pounds in the air.
Contributing to the project in a major way are engineering materials from Solvay Advanced Polymers. For example, two grades of Amodel polyphthalamide were selected to produce injection molded cups for the LEDs to be installed on the plane. For the next prototype, Bayer Materials Science is studying how its Baytubes carbon nanotubes could increase battery performance and improve the strength of structural components while keeping their weight to a minimum.